FAC’s focus on Land Grabbing

Kenya_riceMuch attention has recently fallen on the ‘scramble’ for land and other natural resources in Africa to secure food supplies for populous Asian countries concerned about long-term food security. Yet mounting evidence (from the World Bank, from the International Land Coalition and Oakland Institute among others) suggests that at least as significant is the demand for land on which to grow biofuels or agrofuels. Also significant is the demand for forests and for land for mining. Many of the transnational land deals being concluded in Africa are therefore not about cultivation of food at all, let alone cultivation of food for Africa.

Although the trend towards transnational commercial land deals is global, most estimates and research data concur that most of the land being transacted is in Africa: 70% (about 32 million ha) according to the World Bank and 64% (about 51 million ha) according to the International Land Coalition. As well as Asian, European and North American investors are those from Latin America and from Africa itself, not least South Africa.

In 2010 the Future Agricultures Consortium responded to growing evidence of large-scale land deals in Africa by pursuing two research initiatives:

  • A small grants programme to support 20 detailed case studies of such deals across 14 different African countries, covering topics varying across commodity sector and theme, including biofuels, forestry, water, local elites, international law, community consultations, environment impact assessments, Futher information is available from PLAAS.

  • A set of 5 country studies that explore the location of such deals within wider national, and even regional, political economy, and investigate the processes that have shaped the deals, the terms of the deals, implementation and impacts on land rights and livelihoods of local communities. These studies are underway in Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and South Africa

The outputs of these studies, together with a rich array of other independent studies from elsewhere in the world, were presented at an International Conference on Global Land Grabbing which took place at the University of Sussex, UK, in April 2011.

FAC’s purpose in conducting this policy-relevant and applied research is:

  • To influence policy to curb (trans)national land deals that undermine local people’s land rights and livelihoods

  • To document better and worse practices of large-scale land-based investments, in terms of outcomes for pro-poor agricultural development (ie. tools to inform choices about different ways in which such deals may be structured), in order to promote evidence-based policy in this area, and

  • To promote informed choices about alternatives to land deals, through securing land rights in law and practice, and promoting ‘bottom-up’ accumulation through investment in opportunities for small-scale farmers.

FAC research on these issues has been presented at a number of recent high-profile policy, academic and activist events: